The Quest

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Allow me to postulate from a position of humility.

Though I have no issue with arrogance, I know my place. I am a flash in the pan at best. Probably just background noise for those better qualified to weave history.

But I do feel it is very important to have a good life.

What do I mean by “good life?”

My first response to that question is that I think most people don’t ever ask themselves that. If you are reading this in shock then you are one of the few and the rare, I truly believe most people just go through life totally distracted, with very little will.

This is one little thing I feel like I can and should avoid. To just go through, always reacting to whatever life throws at you, no intention behind your actions, no action towards some form of improvement.

My second response is that this is a term as old as the classical philosophers have their contemplation of what made a “good life” or a life worth living. What qualities, what virtues, what habits?

Now we have positive psychology as a major field of academic research. There is much academic, and mathematically reductionist psychology done on emotion. I had the pleasure and the honor of serving under one such prestigious psychologist in my undergraduate experiences. It was at his lab I learned about mindfulness and meditation. It was in his lab that I also learned to be a skeptic. It was in his lab, though its not what we were working on, that I learned about positive psychology.

Positive psychology finds that things like mindfulness, journaling, exercise, creativity, and gratefulness make one more resilient, less prone to stress (which is a major contributor in America’s two biggest killers: heart attack and cancer), and less likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders.

All in all apathy is unhealthy. But I fear that apathy is the default mode of humanity.

It is no surprise that psychiatric disorders run rampant in the western world. So many of us work jobs and professions that we don’t find personally satisfying. We have to struggle constantly for our loved ones, our spouses, our children, etc. as we care for them and ourselves dealing with the myriad of banal trivial drama of everyday life.

Yet within each human is a virtual atomic furnace of potential.

I also believe within each human exists some yearning and some desire for power.

How often we are given this nonsense cliche false proverb that a desire for empowerment is the principal sin.

I understand that power for the sake of the ego is fucked up. But I also believe true power causes a rise above the ego. I think this probably even happens to most people who have an ego driven need for power, it would not surprise me if these people find a truer deeper need inside them when they achieve their banal wish and wish further, wish harder, wish onward and ascend.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many dangerous people in power, but there is probably something to be said for the mindset of even these monsters. Nietzsche wrote about this rather unapologetically in both Zarathustra and the Joyful Science. He yearned for a Spartan nature, even in the hearts of scoundrels.

I am personally a total hippy who dreams of utopian world peace and how this kind of thing may actually be realized accounting for the limits of human nature. I have come to the conclusion that even with these compassionate desires one must ultimately face the question of power and decide if it is sufficient to merely weep, yearn, and desire or if one is ever to take influence from the hands of ignorance and make things better.

If one can even accept most of the above statements as being generally true I think we can agree that a good life requires that one work for a healthy proactive mindset and to use this mindset to truly shape our lives and hopefully the world into what is best for us. Both collectively and individuals.

What are we up against?

Psychological inertia. The crushing weight of the passing hours spent in servitude to employment, the physical and emotional sustenance of a family, of paying the bills, of going to the grocery store, of indulging in some well deserved vegging out in front of the boob tube. These things take up a lot of time. Most of it.

For many of us aspects of this labyrinth of lame bring out anxiety, depression, compulsion, anger problems, all real detrimental disorders of the psyche. All real fucking shit which causes people to snap, or just kills them slowly through the immune weaknesses brought on by stress.

Overeating, addictions, racism, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, clinical depression, etc.

Oh yeah, my favorite; impotence.

These are the scars left by the brain as it falls towards its natural inertia.

Evolution built us to stalk, howl and kill in the savannah. We don’t do that anymore. Not that we should, except of course… metaphorically.

It takes some kind of boost, some kind of catalyst to rise above the inertia. To lock in our ancient and physical nervous systems into the gear they need to push. To rise. To attain well being. To give rise to the good life.

I think for many, vast, vast numbers, this is provided by religion.

For most of my atheist friends they get this from their hobbies, from their love for learning or nature, and that does it. For me that didn’t quite cut it.

I needed a different catalyst to elevate my personal energy levels so I could make time, and reject more passive activities in order to make my well being, to work towards empowerment, and to work towards the empowerment of others.

I use ritual for this, I use the theatre and symbolism provided by modern occult traditions and find that it gives me the poetic and creative sense of empowerment that I need to push beyond the inertia and give rise to creative product and positive habits like meditation, exercise, etc.

I also believe that the kind of mental exercises provided within these techniques cause me to be more mindful of the other human beings in my life (not to mention animals) and to want to use my power for mutual benefit of at least those I care about. My wife. My cats. My friends.

But more than that. I ended up giving a little bit of money to the Japanese earth quake relief inspired by some audio essays on the alchemical philosopher’s stone on Alchemically Braindamaged.

I am mindful at work of my potential to improve the lives of others, and push myself a little harder. At least to improve the lives of those who I care about.

Some assholes don’t deserve your energy right now, don’t ever apologize for that.

For me occultism, in spite of my atheist metaphysics (though as I have argued there is no real conflict), is a very useful way to rise up and make my life a good one.

This is the quest.

This is the meaning of life.

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